Monday, May 19, 2014

Defiled Churches

I bet you like the way your church "does" church.  Well, at the very least, you like it enough that you call it your church.  But how would you feel if your church made some significant changes?  I don't mean that they stopped preaching from the Bible but instead utilized the Koran, or, the Book of Mormon.  The type of significant changes I am referring to are...

1. Changing the type of music

2. Changing the order of service

3. Dropping something like the midweek evening services to replace it with something like small group home bible studies.

4. Your pastor stopped wearing robes/collar and began to dress "casual"

How would you react to those sorts of changes?  Or, how do you feel about churches that do those things differently than you do? 

Nothing seems to get Christians riled up more than how they "do" church.  There seems to be this streak of antagonism within the Church today that seems to say we can't really be happy with our church(or theological/doctrinal positions) unless we can prove that our way of doing things is the superior True Christiantm way of doing things. 

While certainly there are some areas of stark division that are important to define(such as divinity of Christ, salvation by Christ alone, etc) we have made every issue into a "die on this hill" battle cry.  And we look like idiots and destroy our witness when we do so.

A number of years ago I had a friend who was consulting with a struggling church.  They were demographically much closer to death than college and very old fashioned in their church practices(hymns, organ music, bell choirs, etc).  If something did not change relatively soon the church would have to close their doors.  The unchurched in their area were mostly young professionals with families and they had been wholly incapable at reaching them. 

The suggestion was offered that they needed to consider changing their church service "style".  Cutting back on traditional hymns and men and women in full three piece suit get ups and adding contemporary music and dressing more casually to help foster a more inviting atmosphere to the young and unchurched. 

One particular curmudgeon was infuriated by the suggestion.  There is no way he could stand by and let such terrible things transpire.  The consultant than painted a picture of what could happen if they did so by describing a young single mother in the area who would be more willing to come to a service that seemed more able to communicate with her and that what a wonderful hope it could be for her to get to hear the gospel and respond in faith.  He then asked the old curmudgeon if the possibility of seeing this young lady come to Christ was worth giving up on some traditions?  

The one word response; "NO!"

In Matthew 15 Jesus and his disciples are eating....WITHOUT WASHING THEIR HANDS!!!!  While mothers everywhere may have gagged a bit, the Pharisees went one step farther.  They called Jesus out for letting his disciples defile themselves, SPIRITUALLY, by doing so.  Their complaints weren't about hygiene, but that it had been common TRADITIONAL practice that a truly spiritual and good Jewish person washed his hands to protect himself from spiritual defilement.

Jesus, like he was wont to do, blasted them.  To sum it up(and do click the link and read the whole thing....) He points out that they have allowed MAN created traditions to supersede God's revealed truth. 

What traditions do you hold to that are man made?  And lets be brutally honest here.  No where does it say that an organ and Amazing Grace are the only way to worship in song.  Neither does it say that a guitar and 10,000 Reasons is better! 

The way you do church might be great.  But your style of doing church is not what matters.  What matters it the content of your service!

1)  Is Christ crucified preached?

2)  Is the Bible the center of your teaching?

3)  Is salvation by Christ alone taught?

4)  Are people challenged and encouraged to love each other, to bear with one another, and to grow in maturity?

5) Does your service try its best to honor God FIRST and to also communicate effectively to those who need it?

If those things are not true of your church service then it does not matter if your style is objectively "good".  And if those five things are the natural position of the hearts of your churches leadership, then style will never be permanently static!

Here is a great place of conviction for you and your church.  When was the last time an unchurched person visited on a Sunday morning....AND CAME BACK?!?!

So where do you fall on the spectrum of man made traditions?  What are you willing to change, and what you are not?

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